What a pleasure to attend the conference and celebration event on November 15, “Le Clemi a 30 Ans.” Held in Paris at the Cite Universite, more than 400 educators, students and media professionals were in attendance. As someone who reads French far better than I speak it, I especially enjoyed the robust Twitter stream which was occasionally displayed on a giant screen above the heads of the presenters. But the highlight of my experience was the opportunity to engage with the “quatre lions” of French media literacy education: Jacques Gonnet, Genvieve Jacquinot-Delauney, Evelyne Bevort, and Divina Frau-Meigs.
CLEMI (Centre de liaison de l’enseignement et des médias d’information) provides curriculum resources, materials and training to teachers across the K-16 spectrum. In 1983, CLEMI was founded by the French government and is responsible for advancing media literacy across the French education system. Through initiatives like the “Student Press Week” and other programs, they have reached more than 3 million students across France. Make no mistake about it: 30 years is a major milestone and something to celebrate and treasure!
France has a proud tradition of focusing its media literacy education efforts on a critical exploration of the press. This practice is deeply rooted in the philosophy of citizenship education. As it moves foreward, French media literacy will benefit from continued experiments with practitioners in schools, who adapt resources to create a variety of innovative media analysis and media production activities. And although UNESCO’s Alton Grizzle inspired the audience with his vision of the future and encouraged French educators to embrace a common curriculum for media and information literacy, it’s likely that France’s media literacy education trajectory will be unique. That’s because each nation’s approach to digital and media literacy education must be positioned in relation to its own educational institutions and media systems.
With its strong centralized education ministry and impressive public service broadcasting tradition, there are plenty of opportunities and challenges ahead for media literacy in France. Right now, the media literacy community is located in close alignment to media professionals and communication schools where the emphasis is on the training and preparation of journalists. But creative new forms of journalism are emerging online — and as I explain in my recent paper published in the I/S Journal, these forms blend art, advocacy, and journalism in ways that demand fresh approaches to building discourse communities where people can share interpretations and make sense of complex media messages. Instead of dismissing or trivializing new forms of expression and communication that transcend outdated 20th century genres, media literacy educators must embrace the opportunities they offer to create meaningful dialogue.
Perhaps French media literacy educators will advance the field by connecting their strong tradition of focus on press, citizenship and democracy with emerging approaches that redefine text, authorship and literacy. This may offer the opportunity to connect media literacy education more deeply to the powerful and robust French language and literature tradition. It may also be important to build connections with the technology and education entrepreneurs in digital literacy who look to integrate digital tools into the elementary and seondary curriculum.
In any case, based on the quality of ideas coming from participants — including the leaders in the field and the upcoming generation of students and young scholars — I have confidence that we’ll be celebrating “CLEMI at 40 years” in 2023.